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JAPANESE TV ADS: Yakisoba Anger!

Yes, it’s time for ANOTHER collection of inexplicable commercials fresh off the Japanese airwaves. I learned a few interesting facts, this time.

• Jude Law LOVES Pepsi Strong!
• UFO Yakisoba could be the next Flash Gordon!
• Overwatch has TV commercials!
• They’re already starting to advertise the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!
• You can advertise a “hand blow” on Japanese TV!

JAPANESE TV ADS: See What You Can Learn!

The TV commercials in Japan may be bizarre and nonsensical . . . but you can still learn a few things from them!

• How do you sell TVs? — With disco ninja battles, of course!
• Who do you call to open a bottle of beer? — Boat race ninja ladies!
• What’s the best weapon in the desert zombie apocalypse? — Carbonated beverage!
• How do you make “Independence Day: Resurgence” seem cool? — Add in a new Gundam movie.

JAPANESE TV ADS: Premium Aroma

Hey, look! Another batch of mind bending commercials fresh off the Japanese airwaves! This bundle features:

• The seductive power of gumi candy.
• A samurai who can’t tell a UFO from a duck.
• A really disturbing ad for hair removal.
• Someone who loves—I mean luuuurvs—spicy food.
• And I don’t know what Premium Aroma is, but people REALLY want it!!!

SUMO: Nagoya Basho Senshuraku [The Final Day] (Day 15)

Here we are—senshuraku [the final day]—Day 15 of the 2016 Nagoya Basho. And we won’t know the winner until the final match of the day (well, maybe the next to last match, depending on how things go). Yokozuna Harumafuji remains in the lead with a 12–2 record, with ozeki Kisenosato and M10 Takanoiwa trailing by just one win.

It’s been a crazy basho, unlike any we’ve seen in the last couple of years. A pack of rikishi jockeyed for the lead throughout the first ten days. And whenever one or two seemed to be pulling ahead, circumstances made it so that the pack was able to catch back up. We’ve seen some pretty rare kimarite [winning maneuver] including at least one that isn’t on the official list. But the craziest thing over the last few days have been the “matta” calls.

“Matta” basically means “wait,” and it’s what the gyoji [referee] (or one of the shimpan [side judges]) calls when the tachi-ai [initial charge] is not done correctly. There are a few rules about the tachi-ai, and more than a few traditions, but all that really NEEDS to happen is that both rikishi are in position and ready to go. Historically, it’s more about a feeling of rhythm than anything else. When both opponents were ready . . . the match began. Now, mostly because of TV coverage, there are strict time limits and a point where the rikishi are told they “must be ready,” but still the actual tachi-ai is a matter of timing, where both men commit at the same time. If one of the opponents jumps the gun, or uses gamesmanship to lull the other into distraction, a “matta” is called.

But the matta calls we’ve had over the last few days have been inexplicable. The rikishi, the audience, and the commentators don’t see whatever it is the gyoji and shimpan have been seeing. In particular, Hakuho had both of his last two matches interrupted by “matta” calls that no number of slo-mo replays could satisfactorily explain. Harumafuji had one yesterday, too. I just hope that none of today’s proceedings are interrupted without clear justification. Because once a rikishi has his rhythm shaken, it’s like making him fight with one hand tied behind his back.

The overall performance of the Makuuchi division is still fairly even. Removing the rikishi who missed most of the basho because of injury, here on senshuraku there are 15 rikishi who have achieved kachi-koshi [majority of wins], 17 who have achieved make-koshi [majority of losses]. and 5 who enter the final day teetering with 7–7 records. Surprisingly three of those are rikishi in the sanyaku ranks—ozeki Goeido, ozeki Terunofuji, and sekiwake Kaisei. And the second to last match of the day will pit Terunofuji against Kaisei . . . so at least one of them will end up with a losing record.

M10 Takanoiwa (11–3) vs. M5 Yoshikaze (10–4)—Takanoiwa is only one loss behind Harumafuji, so if he wins this match he’ll be included in a playoff should the yokozuna lose in the final match of the day. Also of note is that both rikishi in this bout were awarded special prizes this basho. Takanoiwa was one of two rikishi awarded the kanoto-sho [Fighting Spirit Prize] (the other rikishi was Takarafuji), and yoshikaze was awarded the shukun-sho [Outstanding Performance Prize], which is the special prize most often unawarded because to get it a rank-and-file rikishi must have a particularly good tournament that includes beating a yokozuna. (5:30)

M1 Mitakeumi (4–10) vs. M12 Tokushoryu (6–8)—This match is of no consequence to the yusho [tournament championship] race, but it is another chance to get a look at how much Mitakeumi has improved, even over the course of the this two weeks. I think we’re going to hear a lot from this young rikishi in the coming years . . . he’s got the right kind of style and attitude to thrive in the upper echelon. (8:10)

Sekiwake Kaisei (7–7) vs. ozeki Terunofuji (7–7)—Two rikishi who have fought hard all basho and ended up needing a win on Day 15. Kaisei has done well in his first ever basho ranked at sekiwake, but losing focus during Week 2 means he still needs one more win to get his kachi-koshi. Meanwhile, Terunofuji is still clearly trying to overcome an injured knee, but since he’s already kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] if he can’t pull a win out here, he’ll drop from sumo’s second highest rank. Desperation makes for exciting sumo, and high-ranking desperation makes for especially memorable bouts. (10:50)

Ozeki Kisenosato (11–3) vs. ozeki Goeido (7–7)—Another match where both rikishi NEED a win. Kisenosato, of course, wants to stay one behind the leader and poised to be in in a playoff if Hakuho beats Harumafuji. His hopes for promotion to yokozuna will pretty much be shattered (perhaps permanently) if he finishes this tournament with four losses. On the other hand, Goeido is still looking for his kachi-koshi. Or, more accurately, he’s looking to avoid make-koshi beacuse that would make him kadoban in September. More high-level desperation! (11:45)

Yokozuna Hakuho (10–4) vs. yokozuna Harumafuji (12–2)—Harumafuji controls his own destiny. If he beats Hakuho, the yusho will be decided, and he will hoist the Emperor’s Cup for the eighth time in his career. If he loses and either Kisenosato or Takanoiwa have won earlier in the day, there will be an immediate playoff to determine who wins the basho. Both yokozuna have been looking a little banged up the past few days, but I give the edge to Harumafuji (besides, I predicted he’d win the basho). Still, you never know what Hakuho will pull from his bag of tricks, and he is trying to avoid having a five-loss basho for the first time since 2012. (12:30)

SUMO: Nagoya Basho 2016 (Day 14)

There’s just two days left in the Nagoya Basho, and one man stands atop the leaderboard—yokozuna Harumafuji with his 11–2 record now controls his own fate. If he wins both of his next two matches, he will win the yusho [tournament championship]. One step behind him, though, are yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Kisenosato, and M10 Takanoiwa, so if Harumafuji stumbles we’re very likely looking at a playoff on Sunday to settle the matter.

Today, Harumafuji faces ozeki Goeido, who is still looking for his eighth victory for kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. He’s got his work cut out for him because if he loses to the yokozuna (which seems pretty likely) his final day opponent is Kisenosato. If he can’t find a way to beat one of them, Goeido will be kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] in September.

The big match of the day, though, is Hakuho vs. Kisenosato. The yusho math is complicated at this point. If Kisenosato loses, he’s out of the running for the yusho. If Hakuho loses, he MIGHT still be in the race, but it’ll require an unlikely series of events AND he will have to beat Harumafuji on Sunday. But the winner of today’s match will only need for Harumafuji to lose one of his remaining matches in order to reclaim a piece of the lead.

Meanwhile, like Goeido, ozeki Terunofuji still needs one more win to get his kachi-koshi. He faces komusubi Takayasu today, and if he can’t manage to seal the deal then he’ll have to do so on Sunday against sekiwake Kaisei (who also is still in search of his eighth win). If Terunofuji can’t manage to win either day, then he will be demoted. Desperate times.

M7 Ichinojo (9–4) vs. M15 Kitaharima (5–8)—Ichinojo is looking for double-digit wins so that he can make a big leap up the banzuke [ranking sheet] in September. On the other hand, Kitamahara already has his make-koshi [majority of losses] and at M15 is almost certainly going to be sent back to Juryo next basho. This is a shame because at the age of 29, this was his first ever chance to fight in the Makuuchi Division. It’s clear that he’s not going to be a contender in the upper division, but I like his style . . . and it’s uncertain that he’ll ever make it back up to the top division again. He’s certainly got fighting spirit (as this video will attest), so it’s possible he can turn around and bounce back up again in the future. (2:00)

M10 Takanoiwa (10–3) vs. M2 Takarafuji (9–4)—Takanoiwa may be in the bottom third of the banzuke [ranking sheet], but his 10–3 record puts him on the leaderboard one loss behind Harumafuji and in contention for a possible playoff. Of course, he has to win today and tomorrow to keep that position. Today he squares off against Takarafuji, who spent Week 1 and half of Week 2 tied atop the leaderboard, but has slipped in the past few days. (5:50)

M1 Mitakeumi (4–9) vs. M9 Sokokurai (4–9)—A fight between two rikishi who have pretty bad records, but have fought hard this basho. Today they put their fighting spirit on display and give us one of the best bouts of Day 14. (6:40)

Sekiwake Kaisei (7–6) vs. M3 Myogiryu (5–8)—Kaisei started the basho strong in one of the toughest ranks on the banzuke—sekiwake. He was 5–3 at the end of Week 1 and needed only three more wins to secure kachi-koshi. Yet, here we are on Day 14 and he still hasn’t gotten that all-important eighth win. If he doesn’t do it today against Myogiryu, his sekiwake rank will be on the line when he faces Terunofuji tomorrow. (9:25)

Komusubi Takayasu (9–4) vs. ozeki Terunofuji (7–6)—This is Terunofuji’s new “last best hope,” since his opponent is “only” a komusubi. Also, Takayasu looked like the wind had gone out of his sails in his Friday match. He’s already secured a promotion for next basho and no longer has any chance to contend for the yusho, so maybe he’s gone into “coast mode.” If so, Terunofuji better take advantage of it. Because a loss today means that his ozeki rank will be on the line when he fights Kaisei tomorrow . . . and there’s every chance that Kaisei will be fighting for his rank, too. (10:45)

Ozeki Goeido (7–6) vs. yokozuna Harumafuji (11–2)—Goeido isn’t as desperate as Terunofuji, but he’s also still looking for his eighth win . . . and trying to do that against a yokozuna is a tall order. Even more so when the yokozuna is on a roll the way Harumafuji seems to be. The yusho will be his if he can win both of his remaining matches, so Goeido will have to bring something special to this match if he hopes to walk away with a win. (11:40)

Yokozuna Hakuho (10–3) vs. ozeki Kisenosato (10–3)—The match of the day. I’ve already talked over the details of this one, so all that’s left to say is that this is just what we hope for at the start of a basho—that the final matches on the final weekend are meaningful and exciting. (12:50)

SUMO: Nagoya Basho 2016 (Day 13)

The 2016 Nagoya Basho is edging closer to completion. There’s just three days left and the situation is . . . complicated. With Hakuho’s loss yesterday, the leaderboard has just two names on it—yokozuna Harumafuji and ozeki Kisenosato. The thing is, they’re all three going to be fighting against each other over the final weekend, so there’s a lot of opportunity for the leaderboard to get shaken up again, and for some of the three- or even four-loss rikishi to find themselves back in the mix, possibly even get involved in a multi-rikishi playoff on Sunday. On the other hand, one of the leaders could win all of his remaining matches and just take the yusho [tournament championship] outright.

Hakuho’s loss yesterday was surprising, and not just because of the late “matta” [do over] call by the gyoji [referee]. If he couldn’t manage to beat an ailing Terunofuji in two tries, I’m a little worried that he might not have enough gas to challenge either of the leaders. (Word is that it’s one of his toes that’s bothering him.) But then again, he’s Hakuho . . . and it’s never a smart idea to underestimate what he’ll bring to the dohyo.

But first, the two leaders go head-to-head TODAY. That’s right, tomorrow either Harumafuji or Kisenosato WILL be alone atop the leaderboard.

Breaking down the Makuuchi Division as a whole, things are looking pretty balanced. Currently, there are eleven rikishi who have achieved kachi-koshi [majority of wins], thirteen who have achieved make-koshi [majority of losses], and fifteen who are still on the bubble. That last group breaks down to seven rikishi currently 7–5, five at 6–6, and only three with 5–7 records, so it seems like overall there’ll be more promotions than demotions. If you’re one of the people who believe that yaocho [match rigging] happens a lot, this is a good weekend to keep your eyes peeled for suspicious behavior.

M15 Sadanofuji (3–9) vs. M6 Endo (1–11)—Endo is one of the most popular rikishi, despite the up and down path his career has taken. For the past year or so he’s been struggling with a leg injury that just won’t heal, and that he won’t fix via surgery. He did well lower down the banzuke [ranking sheet], but here at M6 the competition was more than he could handle, and it’s been OBVIOUS that he was hurt. It took him ten days to get his first win and (SPOILER) although he gets his second one today, watch him when the match is done to see just HOW MUCH pain he’s in. And yet, he’ll be back tomorrow. That’s part of what the crowd loves about him, but it’s also a big reason why he’s probably going to have a relatively short career. (4:00)

M1 Mitakeumi (3–9) vs. M4 Ikioi (4–8)—Mitakeumi is at a career high ranking, and as the announcers have been fond of saying, “he’s been learning a lot this basho.” His record is terrible, but he’s looked strong, and it’s been amazing to watch as he picks up lessons from his losses and tries to apply them in his next matches. Today, he brings his new tactics against Ikioi, who also is having a pretty bad basho, but who DID manage to beat Hakuho the other day. Ikioi’s leg is hurt and clearly his weakness, but he’s a game rikishi with a lot of heart. Someone’s going to learn something from today’s match! (6:26)

M4 Shohozan (4–8) vs. sekiwake Tochinoshin (3–9)—Another pair of rikishi having pretty bad tournaments, but still fighting with a lot of spirit. Both Shohozan and Tochinoshin prefer powerful, growly sumo, and that means this likely to be a very hard fought contest. (8:35)

M5 Shodai (8–4) va. ozeki Terunofuji (7–5)—Terunofuji’s win over Hakuho yesterday means that he only needs one more to get kachi-koshi and free himself from being kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion]. Of course, Shodai has been having a strong basho, and is trying to get to double-digit wins in hopes of getting a special prize. Still, this is probably the lowest ranked opponent left on Terunofuji’s schedule, so he’d be wise to get that eighth win today if he can. (10:20)

Yokozuna Hakuho (9–3) vs. ozeki Goeido (7–5)—Hakuho’s toe is clearly bothering him. He’s coming to each match with a peculiar strategy designed to throw his opponent off balance, and prevent himself from having to charge in and take the tachi-ai head on. (We saw what that results in yesterday when a “matta” left him no choice but to meet Terunofuji squarely.) What’s he got in mind for Goeido? I have no idea . . . and certainly neither does Goeido. Meanwhile, the Ozeki is still one win shy of his kachi-koshi, and Hakuho’s injury makes today a golden opportunity. (11:05)

Ozeki Kisenosato (10–2) vs. yokozuna Harumafuji (10–2)—This is the big match of the day AND the tournament. And for Kisenosato it may well be the match of his career. If he can win here, he’ll be alone in the lead for yusho [tournament championship], and he’ll control his own destiny particularly in terms of a potential promotion to yokozuna. If he loses, he’ll NEED to win both weekend matches AND get lucky in what Harumafuji does in his bouts. It’s a good place for him to be. Kisenosato and Harumafuji have fought 58 times in the past, and the ozeki has won 23 of those, so he’s got a fighting chance.  (11:48)

SUMO: Nagoya Basho 2016 (Day 12)

Day 12 of the Nagoya Basho dawns with four rikishi still tied atop the leaderboard with 9–2 records. With M2 Takarafuji’s loss yesterday, the last of the rank-and-file rikishi have fallen from immediate contention, and only sanyaku rikishi remain. They are yokozuna Hakuho, yokozuna Harumafuji, ozeki Kisenosato, and komusubi Takayasu.

Lost in the hubbub yesterday was the fact that Hakuho passed another milestone. His win over Kaisei was his 900th win in the Makuuchi Division. Quite a feat. Of course, if he can win out over the remaining four days, he’ll end the basho with the 1,000th win of his sumo career. That’s looking like a bigger “if” than it was a few days ago, but it still seems completely within his grasp.

Kisenosato, of course, is not going for any such grand record . . . he’s just still hoping to secure a promotion to yokozuna. Of course, at this point he too pretty much has to win out to feel confident about his chances (though taking the yusho [tournament championship] will secure the promotion even more certainly).

J11 Amakaze (9–2) vs. J8 Ura (8–3)—As you probably saw yesterday, despite a near hobbling ankle injury, Ura managed to get a win over Seiro and secure his kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. Surely that means he’ll take the rest of the basho off and let leg heal up so he can thrive when he’s promoted next tournament. Wait. What? No?! He’s STILL fighting?!? I just hope he doesn’t do major damage to himself . . . the knucklehead! (0:06)

M5 Yoshikaze (7–4) vs. komusubi Takayasu (9–2)—The first match featuring one of the leaders, Takayasu. He’s taking on Yoshikaze, whose eyelid wound keeps getting reopened in each day’s battle. And yet, he still only needs one more win to get his kachi=koshi. Takayasu, on the other hand, has his eye on the a spot in a possible playoff at the end of the tournament and a promotion to sekiwake in September. (8:32)

Ozeki Kisenosato (9–2) vs. M5 Shodai (8–3)—Kisenosato knows that his most important matches will be Friday and Saturday against the two yokozuna, and Sunday against fellow-ozeki Goeido. But he must remain focused on today. Shodai is young (24), and only ranked at M5, but it’s important to remember that he has only ever had one make-koshi [majority of losses] since entering professional sumo. This kid is tough, and he knows how to win . . . he’s already reached kachi-koshi, so he’s gunning for double-digit wins and maybe a special prize, and a win over an ozeki would be a feather in his cap. (10:35)

Sekiwake Kaisei (6–5) vs. yokozuna Harumafuji (9–2)—Harumafuji has been looking strong, and getting stronger as the basho goes on. On the other hand, Kaisei started the basho very strong, but has fallen off in Week 2. He still needs two more wins to get his kachi-koshi. On top of all that, Harumafuji has never lost to the Brazilian rikishi in the thirteen previous times they’ve fought. (11:25)

Yokozuna Hakuho (9–2) vs. ozeki Terunofuji (6–5)—The final match of the day is a tough one to call. Terunofuji is still definitely hurt, but he’s put in gutsy performances throughout the tournament. He still needs two more wins to get his kachi-koshi and escape his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] status. On the other hand, Hakuho is one of the leaders, and showed us some very strong sumo . . . but only on some days. There have also been days when he just seemed uncharacteristically off his game. When both of these rikishi are healthy, their match-up is one of the highlights of a basho. Now that they’re both questionable, though . . . well  . . .  it’s STILL one of the highlights! We just have NO IDEA what’s going to happen! (11:51)

SUMO: Nagoya Basho 2016 (Day 11)

It’s Day 11 of the Nagoya Basho. We’re two-thirds of the way through the tournament and I just can’t even guess what surprises lay in store for us as we move toward senshuraku [the final day]. After somehow managing to get two stablemates alone at the top of the pack, BOTH rikishi lost yesterday, and we’re back to having five rikishi tied atop the leaderboard—yokozuna Hakuho, yokozuna Harumafuji, ozeki Kisenosato, komusubi Takayasu, and M2 Takarafuji—each with 8–2 records.

I feel kinda bad for Kisenosato, who lost to a wicked henka from Shohozan. He tried to keep his feet, but NO ONE in the stadium saw that leap to the side coming . . . and when you’re as big as the ozeki is, you can’t stop and turn on a dime. Henka are a part of sumo, so there’s nothing illegal with what he did. But as I said when Hakuho won the Osaka Basho with a Henka on Day 15, it’s really a disappointment to the fans, who came to see the big men go toe to toe.

Meanwhile, the other co-leader, Takayasu, had to face yokozuna Harumafuji, who was coming back from his Day 9 loss and trying to make a statement that he was still in this race. The message came through loud and clear.

My favorite of the matches, though, was Hakuho’s bout against sekiwake Tochinoshin. It was every bit the toe to toe, power sumo slugfest that I’d hoped it would be. And it proved, at the very least, that Hakuho isn’t overtly injured . . . just intermittently unreliable. (I still think he slipped on the sagari in his loss to Ikioi on Day 9.)

But now we’ve got just five days left . . . and the leaders are going to have to start facing off against one another. Things can and should get even more interesting as we move toward the tournament’s conclusion on Sunday. Oh, and don’t forget that in my pre-basho predictions I said that A) Hakuho would wind up with a 13–2 record, B) the yusho [tournament championship] would be decided by a three- or four-man playoff on the final day, and C) Harumafuji would end up winning the whole shebang.

We’ll see how those (and the rest of my predictions) pan out.

J3 Seiro (6–4) vs. J8 Ura (7–3)—Ura is STILL trying to make a go of it on his badly injured ankle. I mean, it’s hard to blame him, he’s one win away from kachi-koshi [majority of wins], and his strategy to stay along the tawara [rice bales that make up the ring] almost got him that win yesterday. I hope, for his sake, that he gets his eighth win and then drops out of the basho. I want to see this kid up in Makuuchi Division soon, and the worse he hurts that ankle, the longer it’ll be till he makes it. (0:10)

M2 Takarafuji (8–2) vs. komusubi Takayasu (8–2)—Two of our co-leaders square off against one another . . . so the number atop the leaderboard is guaranteed to be smaller tomorrow. (7:10)

Ozeki Kisenosato (8–2) vs. M4 Ikioi (4–6)—Kisenosato needs to bounce back immediately from his loss yesterday—there isn’t time to mope or be unfocused, he’s facing the toughest of opponents from this point on. Today, that opponent is Ikioi, the guy who rolled Hakuho two days ago. (10:12)

Yokozuna Hakuho (8–2) vs. sekiwake Kaisei (6–4)—Hakuho faces another big, strong opponent today—the Brazilian sekiwake, Kaisei. We’re at the “what’s going on with Hakuho?” stage of the basho again, not being able to definitively say if he’s just playing it a little too cool, or if he’s got some unspoken of injury that’s nagging him and affecting his performance. Maybe we’ll learn something today. (12:16)

M7 Ichinojo (7–3) vs. yokozuna Harumafuji (8–2)—No one ticks me off quite like Ichinojo does. Despite his weak performance, despite the lackluster style of his sumo, despite looking almost amateurish against opponents he ought to demolish, he’s here on the verge of kachi-koshi AND on the verge of competing for the yusho. Somehow, I don’t think that Harumafuji is going to make it easy for him to advance on either of those fronts today. (13:05)

SUMO: Nagoya Basho 2016 (Day 10)

Wow! Yesterday was another one of those amazing days that come along very rarely (and yet this is the second one this basho). If you haven’t seen those matches, I suggest you go to my previous post and watch them before reading further, because I’m about to drop a whole bunch of spoilers.

Ready?

Okay, here we go!

Can you believe it? We go from four rikishi tied atop the leaderboard to just two . . . and both of the losers were yokozuna . . . and both of those losses were to rank-and-file Maegashira rikishi! What’s more the two remaining leaders—ozeki Kisenosato and komusubi Takayasu—are both from Taganoura Beya, and because they’re stablemates, they won’t be scheduled to fight against each other during the basho. The only way they’ll go head-to-head is if they both finish the tournament with identical tournament-leading records . . . then they’d go into a playoff (together with anyone else with the same record) and have to square off if the draw requires it.

But let’s get to the biggest question from yesterday . . . what the heck happened to Hakuho?!? I watched the video of the match several dozen times, and I can’t even say for sure that I know what happened physically, let alone why. My first impression was that his left foot stepped on Ikioi’s discarded sagari [the five strings which hang off the front of the mawashi], skidded, and threw him off balance. But it’s not clear that his foot even touched the sagari. In fact, it’s not even clear that his left foot was the first one to buckle. Which foot slipped first? Did he somehow lose his balance? Did one of his knees simply pop? Or maybe his ankle? No one knows, and Hakuho is never talkative about his matches, so we probably never will. All we know is that he lost to Ikioi for the first time ever, and gave up his second kinboshi [gold star for beating a yokozuna] of the tournament.

It is slightly more understandable that Harumafuji lost to Yoshikaze, after all, Yoshikaze came into the match leading their head-to-head series 7–5. But the fact of the matter is that Harumafuji seemed very much in control of that match. He was on the aggressive, Yoshikaze’s existing wound had opened up so that he couldn’t see out of his left eye, and yet somehow he managed to overextend himself and Yoshikaze was able to see the opening and take advantage of it with lightning speed.

Meanwhile, ozeki Terunofuji managed to put up a game fight against Kisenosato, but the more experienced ozeki put his knowledge and seasoning to good use and played a very patient game. In the end, he seemed calm and strong as he won and continues to looked very yokozuna-like throughout the whole tournament.

J8 Ura (7–2) vs. J5 Amuru (5–4)—Another day where we get a peek down into the Juryo Division. We once again see Ura, but also a familiar face—Russian rikishi Amuru who was demoted after his poor performance in May’s Natsu Basho. Yesterday, we saw the Ura hurt his ankle in his match, and today we see that it was, indeed, a disabling injury. But Ura is one win away from kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and he’s not going to give up on that. Look at what Ura does to protect his wounded leg and still remain competitive. (0:06)

M9 Chiyonokuni (6–3) vs. M5 Yoshikaze (7–2)—Here’s a good measure of what Yoshikaze’s tournament has been like. Yesterday he was fighting (and beating) yokozuna Harumafuji . . . and today he’s lining up against a rikishi ranked twelve rungs lower on the banzuke [ranking sheet]. But no matter who is on the other side of the tachi-ai [initial charge], Yoshikaze’s job is still the same—try to win the match before the blood from the wound over his eye blinds him utterly. He’s also only one win away from kachi-koshi. Maybe if he gets that, he’ll take the rest of the basho off and let his eyelid start to heal. (7:45)

Ozeki Kisenosato (8–1) vs. M4 Shohozan (2–7)—With both yokozuna having fallen a step behind, and the co-leader being from his own stable, Kisenosato seems to be in a very strong position. All he needs to do is stay focused and keep doing the kind of sumo he did throughout most of Week 1. Meanwhile, Shohozan is on the verge of make-koshi [majority of losses] and has to find SOME way to upset the ozeki.  (11:07)

M4 Ikioi (3–6) vs. ozeki Terunofuji (5–4)—Ikioi is fresh off his upset of Hakuho yesterday, and Terunofuji still needs three more wins to get kachi-koshi and erase his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] status. Both men have had weak showings so far this basho . . . the question is: which one will be stronger today? (11:40)

Komusubi Takayasu (8–1) vs. yokozuna Harumafuji (7–2)—A yokozuna hates to lose. He especially hates to lose to a rank-and-file rikishi and give up a kinboshi [gold star] award. But nothing takes that bitter taste out of a yokozuna’s mouth like having a chance to topple one of the tournament leaders and pull himself closer to being back in contention. But Takayasu is on top of the leaderboard and he wants to stay there, plus he’s already beaten a yokozuna this basho, so he knows he can do it. (13:13)

Yokozuna Hakuho (7–2) vs. sekiwake Tochinoshin (2–7)—We have no idea what went wrong with Hakuho yesterday, which means we have no idea what type of sumo he’s going to show us today. But since his opponent is Tochinoshin, if Hakuho is healthy it will certainly be some kind of power game. Tochinoshin has NEVER beaten Hakuho in their twenty-two past meetings . . . but he NEEDS to do so today or he’ll be make-koshi. (13:53)

SUMO: Nagoya Basho 2016 (Day 9)

It’s Day 9 of the Nagoya Basho, and as we start Week 2 there are four rikishi atop the leaderboard with 7–1 records—yokozuna Hakuho, yokozuna Harumafuji, ozeki Kisenosato, and komusubi Takayasu—with a small army of rikishi one win off the pace.

One of the most surprising things to happen on Day 8 was that two popular and talented rikishi were handed their eighth straight loss and locked in make-koshi [majority of losses] for the tournament. First is M6 Endo, who seems to be suffering again from whatever injury it was that send him down the banzuke [ranking sheet] and into the Juryo Division earlier this year. Each day, he gamely climbs the dohyo even though it seems clear that he has no strength in his legs. It’s possible he could pull out two or three wins in the second week, but it won’t really do him any good. At this point, I hope he just pulls out of the tournament and starts to recuperate . . . or, better, finally get the leg surgery that he’s been told he needs, and accept that he’ll be out of sumo for the better part of a year. “Hanging tough” like this is just embarrassing for him, and won’t ever let him get back to his old level of competiveness.

The other 0–8 rikishi is komusubi Kotoyuki, and in his place I hope he stays in through the whole basho. There’s nothing wrong with his body, he’s just learning that when you’re ranked at the top of the banzuke you need to be able to win using more than one style of sumo. All Kotoyuki does is straight forward pushing and thrusting, and any yokozuna or ozeki worth his rank should be able to overcome an attack that he KNOWS is coming. Kotoyuki better start working on at least a few belt techniques, or he’ll never be able to stick around in sanyaku for more than a tournament or two in a row.

Meanwhile, ozeki Terunofuji, who is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion], won his match against ozeki Goeido yesterday. Both men now have 5–3 records, and both would be well advised to get the three remaining wins they need for kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. The later in the basho they wait, the tougher the opponents they’ll have to face in the effort. Although, Terunofuji has to face co-leader and yokozuna-hopeful Kisenosato today . . . and it doesn’t get much tougher than that.

J5 Ishiura (5–3) vs. J8 Ura (6–2)—Kintamayama has graciously included this corker of a match from the Juryo Division. Ura is a young rikishi that a lot of people are talking about. It seems likely that we’ll see him up in the Makuuchi division early in 2017, perhaps sooner. But in the meanwhile, here’s a look at what he brings to the dohyo. (0:07)

M15 Kitaharima (4–4) vs. M12 Tokushoryu (4–4)—Two rikishi from the bottom part of the Makuuchi banzuke [ranking sheet], but the match goes to show you that you can see some pretty spectacular stuff from ALL the rikishi in the upper division. In this case, the newspaper may simply say the win was by uwatenage [overarm throw] . . .  but not all uwatenage are created equal. This one is spectacular! (1:53)

M7 Ichonojo (6–2) vs. M2 Takarafuji (6–2)—Two rikishi who are one win off the lead. Ichinojo has been starting to struggle a bit, despite being ranked at M7 and facing suitably low ranked opponents, while Takarafuji is ranked at M2 and has beaten a yokozuna and two ozeki so far this basho. Only one of them can finish today still in the thick of the yusho [tournament championship] hunt, though. (7:25)

M2 Okinoumi (4–4) vs. komusubi Takayasu (7–1)—Takayasu is in the group tied atop the leaderboard, so he’s worth keeping an eye on . . . particularly because his matches are going to be getting EASIER over the coming days (since he’s already faced most of the sanyaku ranked rikishi). Of course, after a terrible start, Okinoumi has won three matches in a row and is looking more like he did earlier this year when he earned his way into a sanyaku ranking. Should be a good match. (8:10)

Ozeki Kisenosato (7–1) vs. ozeki Terunofuji (5–3)—Kisenosato NEEDS this win to stay atop the leaderboard and on track for a yokozuna promotion. Terunofuji NEEDS this win to stay on track for kachi-koshi and staving off his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] status. When two rikishi with this much talent both truly NEED a win, the match is sure to be a thriller (that is, as long as Terunofuji’s legs are strong enough to take the strain.) (10:45)

Yokozuna Hakuho (7–1) vs. M4 Ikioi (2–6)—Hakuho started the basho showing us dominant power sumo, but over the past few days he’s been trying trickier tactics . . . letting his opponents come to him and then flipping the tables on them at the ring’s edge. That’s a dangerous game to play, even for someone as talented as Hakuho. Today, though, his opponent is Ikioi, who seems to have some pretty extreme knee pain. It’ll be interesting to see how both rikishi decide to play this confrontation. I honestly have no idea what to expect at the tachi-ai . . . but I do expect Hakuho will win fairly easily. (13:17)

M5 Yoshikaze (6–2) vs. yokozuna Harumafuji (7–1)—These two have only faced each other a dozen times in the past (as opposed to the forty or fifty times Harumafuji has faced Hakuho and Kisenosato). The most surprising thing about that is that Yoshikaze has won seven of the twelve matches. He has a style that matches up well against the yokozuna and isn’t afraid to just get in there and mix it up (even with a row of stitches in his left eyelid). Should be another great match.  (14:00)